When holidaymakers think about travelling to Switzerland, Geneva is probably not the first city they have in mind. Most, in fact, end up in Bern, Zurich or Lucerne, but Switzerland’s second-largest city leaves much to be uncovered. Geneva is home to over 200 international organisations, including the headquarters of the World Trade Organization, World Health Organization and the International Committee of the Red Cross among others. As such, you will find an endless chatter of people from multiple ethnicities in an incredibly cosmopolitan atmosphere.
So rather than passing over this remarkable city in the French-speaking part of Switzerland, explore and take in all of its stunning lakeside views and attractions. To help you out, we’ve put together a handy guide to the cosiest hotels, best eats and places to go for a good time in Geneva.
What to see
Lake Geneva is a crescent-shaped lake shared between France and Switzerland, and Geneva is conveniently located on the shores of Rhone river (which flows out to the lake). One of the main attractions in Geneva, the lake is also home to Jet d’Eau – a huge water jet that splashes water to 140 metres high. Do note that Jet d’Eau is operational during the warmer months of March to October. If you decide to visit Geneva in summer, pop into the swimming baths, Bains des Pâqui, located in the lake. If you are short on time, a boat tour is a fantastic way to explore Lake Geneva, which unveils beautiful views of the city that cannot be seen elsewhere.
Stroll down the cobbled streets of Geneva’s Old Town, peppered with architectural gems dating back from the 12th to 18th century. While you could do an architectural history tour around this area, there are a couple of highlights that cannot be missed. Take a respite in Promenade des Bastions, a large city green space fitted with six giant chess boards, lounge chairs and a graceful botanical garden. For a bit of culture, stop by Place de Neuve, home to Rath Museum and Maison des Arts de Grütli.
Palais des Nations, the United Nations Office in Geneva
World-renowned for being a neutral country, it is no surprise that Switzerland is home to one of the main offices of the United Nations (UN). Palais des Nations is located a little further away from the other Geneva attractions, but a visit to this iconic location is definitely worth it. There are two tours available here that tourists have to book ahead before visiting. The first tour is a guided tour that focuses on UN activities in Geneva, and guests can visit the rooms where important international meetings and negotiations take place. Those who are more interested in the building itself can opt for the thematic Art and Architecture tour.
Where to eat
Auberge du Lion d’Or
For modern French fare complete with beautiful lake views, make sure to dine at Auberge du Lion d’Or. The restaurant makes use of a small vegetable patch beneath the establishment to grow fresh tomatoes, vegetables and aromatics for guaranteed freshness and quality. The charming location serves up delectable seasonal bites, with a constant strive towards creating dishes with both traditional components and innovative twists.
Rasoi by Vineet
Rasoi by Vineet is Geneva’s first fine-dining Indian restaurant, portioning sophisticated cuisine that, in the words of Chef Vineet Bathia, “never stops evolving”. The restaurant features rich red and purple accents, accompanied by dark woods and stunning stone surfaces. During your visit, remember to feast on the grilled sea bass and tandoori chilli scallops served with Idli-pine nut upma and sambar sauce, a spicy number sure to delight even the fussiest of palates.
Domaine de Châteauvieux
Only 15 minutes west of central Geneva, Domaine De Châteauvieux is a more extravagant option on this list. Housed in a former vine grower’s farm, Chefs Philippe Chevrier and Damien Coche serve gastronomic bites which include sauteed scallops in sepia ink and Limousin rack of lamb baked in hay and aromatic herbs in a sealed casserole. If you are looking for something special, try their six-course surprise menu, composed according to the season, your dietary restrictions and the mood of the chef.
Where to stay
Intercontinental Geneve is a luxurious contemporary establishment just an 11-minute walk from Palais des Nations. Each of its 389 relaxed rooms and suites come with modern furnishings, accompanied with city, mountain and/or lake views. After a long day, find yourself in their 20-metre long pool or in one of the five lavish treatment rooms in the Spa by Clarins. The hotel also offers a cigar lounge, two restaurants and a cocktail bar for guests who prefer dining at their doorstep.
Grand Hôtel Kempinski Geneva
Just a short two-minute walk from the ferry terminal, the Grand Hôtel Kempinski is a peaceful respite in the middle of bustling Geneva. The hotel plays host to 412 rooms, suites and serviced apartments, all fitted with breath-taking views of the Jet d’Eau fountain, the French Alps and Mont Blanc. The lavish property is also home to three gourmet restaurants, each possessing a unique personality and ambience. Have a tipple or two at FloorTwo Lounge, and then finish off the night dancing at Java Club, one of Geneva’s most popular nightclubs.
For a restful night in a historical outpost, spend the night at Beau-Rivage Genève. The 19th century overlooking Lake Geneva is an elegant option for any discerning traveller. Besides opulent rooms with antique-style furnishings, the hotel also has private saunas as upgrade options. To make the most out of your stay, the hotel also offers private excursions to neighbouring vineyards and regions as well. If you’re looking for an unforgettable dining experience, dine at Le Chat-Botté, a Michelin-starred restaurant located within the hotel itself.